How Society Has “Gotten in Wrong” About Autism Portrayal in Media

A stereotype that I would like to examine is how autistic people are portrayed in the media. My youngest nephew has autism, so I am able to see and understand what a day in his life may look like. He has overcome many challenges and proven many people wrong who doubted his abilities; a doctor had told my sister that he will never talk or operate at the capacity of a “normal” child, which did not sit well with my sister. At five, he is happily talking away and interacting with the world around him, just through a different lens. The stereotype is that autistic people are “weird,” and will never have a normal life or hold a job because autism is a disease that has no cure.

One of the major parts of the media construction of the stereotype is the person-first language compared to the individual-first language. In our learning materials, a 38 year old autistic and ADHD software engineer discussed his lived experience of having autism and how the media has interacted with it. He encountered person-first language when viewing Dr. Gupta running a special on CNN regarding marijuana and autism. For example, person-first language looks like “person with diabetes” when referring to someone who is diabetic. Dr. Gupta was referring to autistic people as people with autism, which was viewed as problematic. This type of language separates the person from the illness or disease that they have and clearly states the distinction between the two. Conversely, individual language encompasses the pathology with the person themselves. This looks like “autistic person” instead of “person with autism.” Both do describe autism, but the first option is very much preferred by autistic people. This is because there has been a lot of trauma and negative connotations when using person-first language (“person with autism”). It insinuates that autism is separate from the individual and can be cured, when that is not the case because many autistic people acknowledge that autism is a core part of their identity that shapes how they view and interact with their world around them. Autistic people have said that using individual-first language is the preferred way to describe autistic people, so it is important to respect that and not contribute to the stereotype.

Another aspect of the media construction is the double-empathy problem. The double-empathy problem is that allistic (non-Autistic person) have a difficult time understanding autistic people, and autistic people have a difficult time understanding allistic people. This is because both people experience life differently than the other, but media construction has made it one-sided in that autistic people are hard to understand. An example of this portrayal in the media is with ABC’s show “The Good Doctor.” The show follows Shaun Murphy (played by Freddie Highmore) who is an autistic doctor at a hospital. One of the first issues regarding the show is that Freddie Highmore is not actually autistic, and neither are any of the writers. This leaves out the key perspective of autistic people, which has a monumental repercussions because of how great the show’s reach is. There is a famous scene in the show where Freddie Highmore’s character has a meltdown in front of his boss and yells, “I am a surgeon!” repeatedly with an increasing volume. The scene was viewed as problematic because the audience felt that it was a “cardboard cutout of what people believe an autistic person is” and how they behave. The show’s lack of autistic employees/actors/writers excludes an entire perspective of autistic people that would help accurately represent how they view their world, thus creating more understanding to eliminate the double-empathy problem, and that autistic people can not only hold a job but thrive in careers such as medicine.

This construction can be harmful to others because it alienates autistic people’s voices from society and perpetuating a harmful narrative that autistic people cannot succeed on their own. I genuinely do not believe that there is any benefit from this construction because it creates a sense of power-struggle in itself. Autistic people are further put down, while non-autistic people can feel a sense of superiority and even pity for autistic people. The one-sidedness promotes an untrue narrative that the non-autistic experience is the only normal perspective in society, and treats autism like a disease instead of a pathology. Therefore, it is important to be aware of our own biases when we encounter people who are different than us, and to treat them with respect.

“Immigrants: We Get the Job Done”

The cultural resource that I have chosen is Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton. Hamilton explores the depths of how Alexander Hamilton “got the job done” through his various roles as “immigrant scholar, revolutionary, right-hand-man and strategist to George Washington, New York delegate to the Constitutional Convention, primary writer of the Federalist Papers, Secretary of the Treasury, Creator of the Coast Guard, Founder of the New York Post, etc…” Alexander Hamilton was born in the Caribbean but was sent to the United States by his community so that he may receive a solid education. He had a talent with the pen, which is what sent him to the United States to begin with. Hamilton came to Broadway at a very pivotal time in American politics as well, when immigrants were being held in detention centers, deported, starved, separated from their children, killed, and other monstrosities at the hands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Immigrants built America, but those born with a silver-spoon in their mouths tend to forget that.

The family separation policy from ICE may have been among the most cruel and inhumane. This policy separated 5,000 children from their parents at the Mexico border, without any records or tracking process that would unite families back together. This policy under former president Donald Trump and created by ICE head official Tom Homan was a part of a “zero-tolerance” approach to immigration that would deter families from coming to the border. Parents were told that if they agreed to their own deportation, they would get their children back (they didn’t.) Parents who were able to reunite with their children found their children suffering from PTSD. These children were packed into cells in these detention centers with the lights on, inadequate medical care, no blankets, and filth. The “American Dream” that Hamilton was able to achieve was not even fathomable for immigrants during the Trump-era presidency. The alternative to Hamilton was a stark and bleak reality for how Americans viewed immigrants.

The imagined alternative for Hamilton was definitely not children in cages, but instead a unified nation that was strong because of its diversity. Systemic change toward the issue fluctuates between which party holds the majority in Congress, but the technological change may be what is required. There is a popular immigration attorney on TikTok (@attorneymartinez) who informs her audience on their rights, provides legal advice for immigrants and DACA recipients, what to do if ICE comes to your door, and other important pieces of information that would not be readily available to immigrants without having to pay large amounts of money. She educates her audience for free, and she has a massive reach with 1.2 million followers and 28.2 million likes. Social media has the power to unite people on a massive scale, as seen in the summer of 2020 during the Black Lives Matter movement; The New York Times has said that BLM may be “the largest movement in US history” despite the nation being on COVID-19 lockdowns and unable to leave the house.

In part, the alternative already exists in America with sanctuary cities and progressive politics. The Biden Administration did not continue the Trump-Era family separation policy, but are still “enforce[ing] measures to increase security at the border and reduce the number of individuals crossing unlawfully between ports of entry. These measures will expand and expedite legal pathways for orderly migration and result in new consequences for those who fail to use those legal pathway.” However, there are 600 sanctuary cities in the US that “discourage local law enforcement from reporting the immigration status of individuals unless it involves investigation of a serious crime” which offers a glimmer of hope. However, there is still a lot of work to be done and progress to be made. It is now time for Congress and the United States government to “get the job done” to protect immigrants and ensure that they have access to the “American Dream,” just as US citizens do.

Debunking the Connection Between Vaccines And Autism

While more people are being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), there is also an increase in claims that vaccines cause autism. This controversy began in 1998 when a study by Andrew Wakefield and 12 colleagues stated that the MMR vaccine (measles-mumps-rubella) could cause autism in children. The study itself was flawed in many ways: the sample size was 12 participants, the design was unorganized, the data was cherry-picked in order to support certain claims, and the nature of the study seemed very speculative. The study seemed more like a hasty generalization than an accredited scientific discovery, yet the study received a lot of attention. Autism and the MMR vaccine both occur in childhood, but that is not a strong enough argument to support the claim that the MMR vaccine is the cause of autism.

Confirmation bias and anti-vaxx propaganda helped advance the theory. Many parents began stating that their autistic children had been developing normally until they had the MMR vaccine. Andrew Wakefield was also a former British physician, which appeared to make him a credible source. However, he was criticized by the Medical Research Center, but he doubled down on his claims which ended up costing him his career. A string of controversies followed him upon the publication of his study: he left his career at the Royal Free Hospital in 2001, was charged with allegations that his study received funds from the Legal Aid Board “while looking for evidence for parents of autistic children suing vaccine manufacturers for compensation” in 2004, and finally was struck off of the medical register and banned from practicing medicine in 2010. He resided in Texas and gained popularity once again from anti-establishment and anti-vaxx Trump supporters during Trump’s presidency.

Conversely, cedible sources such as Mayo Clinic, the CDC, JAMA, and KidsHealth have debunked the claim that vaccines cause autism. Mayo Clinic stated that vaccines protect children from many illnesses and diseases such as rotavirus, polio, and whooping cough, which are given in the first year of the child’s life. The first dose of the MMR vaccine is given to children between 12-15 months, and the second dose is given when the child is 4-6 years old. The vaccines also prevent children from higher risks caused from diseases such as, etc. The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) published the “largest study to date, analyzing the health records of over 95,000 children (compared to Wakefield’s sample size of 12 children). About 2,000 of those children were classified at risk for autism because they had a sibling already diagnosed with autism.” This study confirmed that the risk of autism was not caused by the MMR vaccine. The consensus according to the CDC is that “to date, the studies continue to show that vaccines are not associated with ASD.”

When examining conspiracies or any type of media, it is important to remember the five principles for media consumers: be skeptical, exercise judgement, open your mind, keep asking questions, and learn media techniques. Another important tactic is to consider the outlet and reporters. Andrew Wakefield had his license revoked and the study was discredited, which makes his claim that the MMR vaccine causes autism create immediate skepticism. By utilizing these tactics, consumers can debunk controversies and conspiracy theories and be better equipped to sift out the truth.

Fact Checking Lightning on Jupiter

The claim that Reuter’s Fact Check is debunking is that a lightning storm on Jupiter was photographed by the James Webb space telescope.

A social media user tweeted out an illustration of lightning storms on Jupiter that was created by Gerald Eichstädt, a “citizen scientist” with NASA. Eichstädt assisted NASA on their Juno Mission of 2011 which studied the surface of Jupiter. The illustration was claimed to be an actual photograph taken by the James Webb space telescope, when in reality that claim was false. The James Webb space telescope was actually launched in 2021, ten years after the Juno Mission. NASA described the James Webb telescope as the “premiere space-science observatory of the next decade.” Reuters fact-checked the claim by reviewing the source of the image, which was NASA’s website titled “Shallow Lightning on Jupiter (Illustration).”

An article from Space.com compares how the lightning on Jupiter is similar to that of Earth’s. The article cites NASA’s Juno mission that gave NASA five years worth of data to sift through, and compares Jovian lighting on Jupiter and Earth. To decide if this piece was fact or opinion, I made sure to use the SIFT method discussed in Module 4. The SIFT method is Stop, Investigate the source, Find better coverage, and Trace claims, quotes, and media back to the original content. I also ensured that the subject matter was factual, meaning that it could be proved/disproved by objective evidence.

An opinion piece that I found was from a website called BoingBoing. It was difficult to find an opinion piece, but the author does inject some of their own beliefs into the piece despite citing Juno and NASA in the piece. The author shares a video from NASA and describes how cool the illustration is. I was a little uneasy because I had not heard of the news source before, and some stories on their landing page include “Fancy duck eats peas at lightning speed,” and “Las Vegas police officers spotted UFO falling from sky and then investigated aliens-in-my-backyard report.” The titles of these stories appear to have qualities of opinion pieces in them, such as not being objective and having thoughts and feelings included instead of presenting the information.

It is very important to be a responsible media consumer in today’s age, so utilizing the SIFT method along with checking for objective evidence will help consumers tell the difference between fact or opinion, and fake or real media.

Personal Privacy and Security Online

This post is dedicated to my mother and other baby boomers who can benefit from helpful tips on navigating personal privacy and security online.

Dear mom,

Your generation and mine interact differently with social media: we both have fond memories of growing up playing outside, but social media was introduced at the end of my childhood but in your early adulthood. An article from Forbes magazine highlighted differences in opinions about social media from Gen X through Baby Boomers, and found some interesting findings that I would like to share with you.

My generation depends on social media more than your generation, and your group is also the most wary of giving out personal information. 79-84% of Baby Boomers polled were “were extremely unlikely to give away personal information such as their birth date, real-world address or social security number on a social media profile.” Baby Boomers along with young Millennials reported that they never had a security problem before, but Boomers felt like they did not have adequate protection from various threats to security.

In my opinion, the most important threats to security are phishing, tracking, and spyware. Phishing is faulty links, commonly sent through email, that trick users into giving up sensitive information like credit card information, addresses, etc. I fell for a phishing email while at my old school; the email was for an internship for humanities and I filled out the form only to get an email from the school a few minutes later warning students of the fake email. Next, many websites will sell your data to third parties without your knowledge and may make it difficult for you to request or delete data, like Facebook. Lastly, spyware “is a form of malware that gathers data from users and their devices then sends it to third-party individuals without consent.” This data ranges from credit card information, bank statements, login credentials, etc. These threats are very dangerous, especially to the Baby Boomers who are not confident in their protection from threats to their privacy and security online. However, there are steps you can take to protect your information and increase your security.

One of the major protections you can enact is to install antivirus software and keep it updated. Mom, we have McAfee and Norton on the computer downstairs, so we are already off to a good start. Next, users can use a password manager instead of opting to use their browsers. Although it is convenient for Chrome or Firefox to store our passwords, it is limited and not always protected. By using a password manager and creating unique passwords for each account (you can do this with random password generators as well), you are ensuring that your login information is varied so that hackers will have a more difficult time guessing your password, instead of using the same password for all of your accounts. Lastly, you can use multi-factor authentication. This is the second step of logging into your account to ensure it is actually you, and it involves thing like sending a code to your phone number or email. It verifies your identity like this: something you are (facial recognition), something you have (mobile phone number), or something you know (the password). These steps are a great place to start to ensure your safety and protection online.

To my mom and readers, I want to help you have the tools and knowledge to feel more confident in protecting yourself online. Although we come from different generations, privacy is a right and so is having peace of mind online.

24 Hour Media Diary

I am reflecting on my media consumption and the information I provided to these companies on Friday, June 2nd.

8:30am: I slept through my alarms and woke up 10 minutes before I had to be out the door for work. I scrambled to get ready, then used Spotify to listen to Taylor Swift before work. I share my location services with Spotify, but it says “South Lockport” instead of my town of Joliet, Illinois. Spotify collects this kind of data to update me on upcoming concerts of artists I follow and listen to. I have also noticed that songs I have favorited play after I am finished listening to an album, so the algorithm pushes songs that I like more than songs that sound similar to the album with the “radio based on (album)” feature.

11:30am: I take my break at work and log into Ticketmaster to try and score Taylor Swift tickets for Friday evening, but I had no luck. I was able to get through the queue and secure tickets, but was kicked out of Ticketmaster and it said there were no more events. Below is a screenshot moments before heartbreak. To deal with my heartbreak, I researched an article about Taylor Swift fans suing Ticketmaster over “fraud, price, fixing and antitrust violations.” This brought me an ounce of joy. Ticketmaster has my name, email, address, and behavior data. Ticketmaster recommended a Stevie Nicks concert that is happening in a few weeks at the United Center in Chicago. However, the cheapest tickets are $95 but total at $282 for two tickets and after fees. Ticketmaster’s privacy policy states that they only share consumer’s data with “Event Partner(s) – such as the artist, promoter, record label or venue – as well as other third parties associated with the service provided.”

3:00pm: I didn’t check my phone the rest of my shift since we were busy, but I went home and checked my Snapchat and Twitter. I liked tweets regarding the Eras Tour in Chicago such as Taylor Swift outfits and Wholesome memes, so the algorithm will push more of those kinds of content onto my timeline.

5:00pm: I checked Facebook to check in on my family, and saw a few targeted ads from Amazon. The items in the ad included bookshelves, couches, and other home-related items. I am looking to move out this year, so anytime I engage with these ads it will promote more home-related items for me, which is helpful when I am planning the furniture out for my apartment. I think that Amazon has definitely nailed me down for their target audience, especially with how accurate everything that is recommended to me is.

8:00pm: I wasn’t on my phone much today, but I checked Twitter and Ticketmaster once again to see if any tickets were available for Saturday’s show (there wasn’t any). I tried to be unplugged today except for periodically checking to see if there were any Taylor Swift tickets, which was the main focus of the day.

I am not worried for my privacy regarding Ticketmaster since I enjoy concerts and would like to continue to see the algorithm push bands/artists I like into my feed. However, I am skeptical when it comes to Facebook and will be more selective with the information I share, especially when reading this week’s learning materials. One article in particular mentioned that Facebook will not delete collected data without deleting your account, and they make it difficult to opt out of your personal data being sold. Spotify is very clear in who it shares consumer’s data with as well, so I will continue as usual. Overall, I am more comfortable sharing data with the companies who are straightforward versus companies/brands who make it difficult to see who they share consumers’ data with.

How Net Neutrality Impacts Consumers

Net neutrality is the notion that internet providers, such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast, should ensure their consumers have equal access to content. Think of it this way: PBS News Hour gave the analogy that AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast are a highway, and content coming from sites such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter are the cars on the highway. The internet highway should remain an open road, but these service providers can slow down the content and charge more for faster lanes. These internet providers would essentially be controlling what their consumers see or have access to. Net Neutrality has a significant influence on consumers and how they receive their media.

Obama-Era protections regarding Net Neutrality were slashed in 2017. The Obama-legislation protected consumers and regulated corporations so that they could not charge their consumers for faster internet access. For example, according to the New York Times, these companies’ acts of slowing transmission, creating internet fast lanes, and blocking websites were prohibited.

However, the slashing of these regulations put the customer at risk. Companies would be able to bundle plans, such as a social media package, that allowed faster internet speeds for Youtube or Instagram, but the plan would cost more money. The providers would be able to dictate which content their subscribers saw, which leads to very serious problems. Subscribers would not receive full access to news sites or content. Instead, they would receive a filtered feed that has the potential to push an agenda or simply exclude anything that is not in alignment with the company’s values. Another issue would be disconnect from family and friends. If Facebook was not included in a social media bundle for example, then the subscribers would either have to find a different provider, deal with slower internet speeds, or pay a costly amount just to have access/speed.

A more recent example of the impact of Net Neutrality is the Covid-19 pandemic. The internet was the only thing that connected people together when they physically could not be together. Classes were taught on zoom, birthdays were celebrated by car parades or FaceTimes, and working from home became the new normal. An article from Wired emphasizes the importance of reliable education and work sites, video conferencing, and entertainment. Between February and March of 2020, internet traffic “surged by anywhere between 10 percent and 40 percent amid layoffs, school closures, and shelter in place orders” (Finley). Internet speeds, especially between Comcast and Charter, kept internet speeds at or above the standard levels they had previously. It is not enough to simply trust for-profit companies to have the common good in mind. Strong regulations of companies and protection of the consumer help to ensure equal access and speeds to all media so that we stay informed and connected.

My 24 Hour Media Usage

Welcome to my morning of Friday, May 19th 2023.

2:45am: This is officially the start of my morning. I work as a shift supervisor at Starbucks and we recently changed our hours to open a half hour earlier (5am to 4:30am, sad face.) My shift is from 4:00am to 9:30am. I immediately check the notifications center to see if I missed anything during the night, but it is nothing substantial. I had a few Snapchats from friends, but I decide to open those later.

3:00am: After brushing my teeth and washing my face, I sit down to do my makeup. Every morning I use Spotify to listen to my favorite artists ranging from Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, Fleetwood Mac, and so many others. Today I chose Taylor Swift’s album Midnights to prepare me for the usual insanely busy Fridays. I try to limit my media usage in the morning so that I don’t get a dopamine rush right at 3am only to become exhausted later, but I am not perfect and open Snapchat to respond to my friends. It’s all about balance, right?

3:20am: When I open I usually wait until my first break to eat food so that I don’t get a stomachache, so I either drink a protein shake or have something light like yogurt. While I drink/eat, I scroll through Facebook to catch up with my family until it’s time to leave. My dad is usually up at this time getting ready for work, so I converse with him. We don’t watch TV in the morning, so it’s nice to talk to him without any distractions. It makes waking up at the crack of dawn worth it.

3:40am – 3:55am: I make the ten minute commute to work and listen to Spotify once again to ensure a good start to my morning. Once I get to work, I sit in the parking lot and wait for the other openers to arrive. In the meantime, I watch Tiktoks again before heading inside once my crew arrives.

3:55am-6:00am: At this point in the morning, we open the store and get things going for the day. It is very crucial to stay focused during these tasks since Fridays are especially busy, so I only check the time on my phone to make sure my team and I are on track with our tasks. Once 6:00am rolls around, I take my break and sit down in the back. Our breaks are 10 minutes, so I don’t usually open Tiktok or Instagram since I am prone to falling down the rabbit hole on those apps. Instead, I will open Twitter to get a brief rundown of the news. I then open the app Finch, which is a self-care app where users take care of a pet bird that goes on adventures when you complete your self-care tasks. Users and their birds get rewards after an adventure is completed, and the bird grows up the more consist a user is. It is a goal-oriented app which helps me stay consistent with it, and my friend uses it as well so we hold each other accountable. Once I am done with my break, I go back on the floor and help my team get ready for peak – which is 7:00am to 9:00am.

7:00am-9:30am: The day is very busy and goes by quickly thankfully, so once I am off I check Snapchat and my messages to answer friends. On my way home I listen to Spotify with Taylor Swift once again on repeat.

9:40am-1:30pm: This day was a little strange because I try not to take a nap after I open. It disrupts my productivity flow, but I was very exhausted from opening the past week. I meant to take a 45-minute nap but ended up taking an almost four-hour nap. As I was falling asleep, I had Youtube opened to a meditation video. I mostly use Youtube as a sleep aid, for makeup videos, or to watch podcasts from some of my favorite Youtubers. I also check actual news sites like The New York Times or Washington Post instead of Twitter.

2:00pm-4:00pm: After eating lunch, I caught up on The Mandalorian on Disney+ and used it as a background noise while I completed some assignments.

6:00pm: I take a shower and put my going-out playlist on my Alexa on Spotify. My friends and I are going out and doing our weekly debriefs, so I am getting ready for that. After I dry off, I start doing my makeup and use Youtube as background noise this time and catch up on one of my favorite podcasts: Insanely Chill with Cody Ko. I like the comfort of having background videos playing while I complete tasks, it motivates me more to finish them.

8:30pm: I unfortunately have to work the next morning as well, so I will not be out with friends for long. I utilize Spotify on the drive to my friend’s house before we go out. Once we are out, I use Snapchat to post pictures of us and our outfits. On the drive back home, I listen to Spotify once again.

The biggest part of my media usage is Spotify. I always like to have something going on in the background, especially with ADHD brain. It brings me comfort as I mentioned and helps me focus on the task at hand, or gives me the freedom to be in my head for a little while. The second biggest part would be Snapchat, which I use to text my friends moreso than iMessage or any other app. For me, the most credible media sources would be sites like the Washington Post and the New York Times. These sites are more credible than Facebook or Twitter, especially for receiving news. It was eye-opening to see my inventory of media and the role it plays in my day.